The top model in Cannondale's Synapse range is the Hi-Mod Black Inc. It's a sportive special: light, smooth, easy to ride, with a race-bred edge. Launched on the chalky gravel roads of Tuscany's Strada Bianche, it's a bike that can deal with any kind of tarmac surface.
- HIGHS: Simply stunning, smooth comfort mixed with bullet-like pace and enthralling handling
- LOWS: Not being able to afford it
- BUY IF... You can beg, borrow or steal the cash to get your hands on it
With its rear angled dropouts, the distinct fork helps eliminate road buzz, aided massively by the superb 25c Schwalbe ZX tyres. The classy UD-finished FSA SL-K carbon bar also contributes to how smooth the front end feels. Things are just as impressive at the rear.
Cannondale used a unique 25.4mm diameter for the seatpost, and FSA have provided a custom UD-finished SL-K carbon post. The back end glides over coarse surfaces, with the slim post offering plenty of movement and the distinct, slender seatstays adding compliance.
Compared to the outgoing model, the new Synapse is lower at the front (but not overly so) and has a longer top tube. Riders from Team Cannondale have had involvement with the bike's design and their suggested changes make it more aggressive. It has landed squarely in the domain of Giant’s sublime sportive special, the Defy Advanced.
The bottom bracket shell (which is a modified, wider BB30a standard) uses what Cannondale call their ‘power pyramid’ split design. The result is a fantastically stiff drivetrain in an impressively light frame.
Ascending on a bike weighing under 7kg (15.4lb), equipped with an 11-28 cassette is always going to be comfortable. Descents on endurance designs are often stable, but they can also be sedate. The Synapse has stability, but its speed potential is stellar. On a favourite test loop descent in blustery, rainy conditions we nudged over 47mph – impressive in the dry, but in the wet? Unheard of. Some of that composure is down to Vision’s Metron 40 clinchers, which are a seriously impressive set of wheels.
Shifting and stopping comes courtesy of Shimano’s exemplary Dura-Ace 9000 groupset; it's an impressive mechanical marvel, matched to Cannondale’s super light SiSl2 chainset. We found that for the first 60 miles of testing, the chainrings held the chain slightly too long, especially when shifting under load. If we have to nit-pick then it's at the headset spacer-integrated light. It's neat, doesn’t cost anything and is a nice nod to safety, but it limits bar height adjustment.
It’s a rare thing to find a bike that surpasses our expectations. It's reasonable to expect that any bike costing just short of £6,999 should be good, and that’s certainly the case here. At the heart of the Synapse is a brilliant chassis, which sets this bike apart from the competition. The classy understated carbon wheels, matching stem, bars, and seatpost are the icing on the cake.
The Synapse Hi-Mod Black Inc is the king of the range; it's the ultimate gran fondo bike. It is light, smooth and easy to ride, with an exciting race-bred edge. Not many of us will be able to stump up this kind of cash for a bike, but this frameset is available (in non Hi-Mod guise) from as little as little as £1,699 .
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.